Terry from Derry: A Dyslexic God
Dyslexia is a complicated thing to define. People with dyslexia find it difficult to decipher language that makes sense to the rest of us. Faced with a sentence, words may appear as nonsense and disordered even though the same sentence makes perfect sense. Conversely, those with dyslexia might write nonsense that makes sense to them but appears nonsensical to others.
I’m reminded of the old joke about the dyslexic devil worshiper who offers his soul to Santa. I think dyslexia is a great metaphor for understanding faith. For example, there are times when we wish someone reading our texts was dyslexic, especially when the auto-correct decides to play havoc with our good thoughts.
I think God must be dyslexic. How can the creator see anything good in humans, especially when we are willfully committed to destroy the planet we inhabit, and blind ourselves to poverty and injustice? Some of more sophisticated among us choose to believe in a God tailored to suit their prejudices and designed to meet their every need. I am not one of those.
Theology, as a subject, has always fascinated me. For many people, religion is anathema while for others it forms the basis of community. Billions of people in this world claim to believe in something greater than themselves; a creative force responsible for all that there is, seen and unseen. While there are just as many people who believe that such beliefs are outdated, primitive, and unscientific.
The unbeliever points to the wars fought, and continue to be fought, in the name of God.
Conversely, believers have been persecuted by non-believers for believing in a God. It is easy to point the finger at the concept of faith and accuse those who find a need to believe in God as one of the primary causes for our lack of progress. With such a lopsided view of faith, it’s no wonder there is no wonder or mystery in choosing to believe.
When it comes to dismissing the possibility of a God, the usual topics are doled out; suffering, poverty, war, religious intolerance, inequities, clerical abuse etc. The list goes on and on ad infinitum. With such a large arsenal of damning evidence to negate the existence of God, why continue to believe?
It’s a question that haunts me daily as I struggle to rationalize my own faith against a host of perfectly sensible arguments. There are days when it would be much easier to simply give in, give up, and accept that there is no God, but, I can’t. For, to do so, would rob me of so many wonderful things; such as beauty, kindness, love, mercy etc.
Do I need to have a God to enjoy these same things? No, but a belief in God magnifies each of these qualities in a way that not only satisfies my mind but also my soul.
There is no doubt that belief in God has inspired some incredible works of art, amazing architecture, transformed hearts and brought comfort to countless numbers of people. When religion is purged of intolerance, power mongering, and stripped back to the essential core, it’s motivated by love.
True religion is about actions, not words, that inspire us to hope. You don’t need to surrender your brain in order to believe in God. In my opinion, there is no absolute mantra of words or a particular creed to adhere to.
When it comes to the different religions in this world, it’s best to be dyslexic. Who cares if you get the names mixed up, and read the words incorrectly. True religion advocates that the believer be just, merciful and humble. God, is probably as dyslexic as we are when it comes to the details. He/she/it has left us a huge mystery to unfold, and we can either spend our time discriminating against those who are not like us and separating ourselves from them, or we can live joyfully with our dyslexia and read everything as an advocation towards inclusivity.
Dyslexics often have to guess at the meaning of a sentence. They need to re-arrange the words in order to achieve clarity. Faith requires us to be dyslexic. When a verse appeals to self-righteousness or sectarianism, it should not make sense.
Jumble those words around in your mind until they reflect the true nature of God. Everything makes sense when we decipher language as it is intended and reinterpret any interpretation that excludes or demeans others. Reinterpret those words that emphasize ‘election’ or ‘chosen’ and see them instead as the whole of humanity and not the select few.
God must be dyslexic. How can he not see the obvious signs of a self-destructive race of beings who are intent on destroying all that is good? Is he blind to our rampant exploitation? What does he make of our tribalism and the cruelty towards others? God has to be dyslexic.
God has to be dyslexic in order to read between the madness and and see beyond the nonsense we create in order to see us as we could be rather than what we are. It takes a dyslexic God to see order in the nonsense we communicate. It’s truly a wonder that God continues to believe in us.
*Terry Boyle is a professor at Loyola University, Chicago. He writes and reviews plays, while also teaching modern Irish and English drama. Moving from Derry, N. Ireland to Chicago in 2004, he continues to enjoy is work with the Irish American community. He can be reached at [email protected]